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Two things I’ve learned after 5 years of marriage

In honor of our 5 year anniversary (and because I despise sentimental posts), I will list two things I was told about marriage that scared me to death but turned out to be totally false:

1. It’s difficult to be married. It’s actually super easy and amazing–learning to budget money with a partner is what’s difficult.

2. Kids ruin your romance. Nope. Electronic devices and apathy ruin your romance.

I’m no expert, but I’m happy to have learned two things in five years.

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Myth: “Just buy baby a stack of onesies–baby isn’t going to need all those clothes.” – Grandma

Laundry used to be an every-other-week undertaking that took up no more than two washing machines.  

Four days' worth of laundry

Well, those days are most assuredly over, aren’t they? At least until baby stops defying the laws of gravity by pooping both vertically and horizontally.

I now average about six loads of laundry per week. I’ve started to notice that I’m getting annoyed looks from the folks in my building who are either baby-indifferent or just plain “over it” when they see me hurling two heaping bags of half-sopping wet and soiled baby clothes, blankets, and towels – alongside mine and the husband’s sweaty and spit-up soaked clothing. I can only imagine how yucked out pre-baby me would have been to have to use the same machine(s) to wash the one amazing pair of J Brand jeans I own (and will clutch to until baby is 30).

But the greatest change has to be the way I now take obscene interest in washing all of baby’s clothes in $800 Dreft detergent and folding them to perfection, while my underwear and bras are washed in what pretty much amounts to dishwasher detergent by comparison, and then shoved into the nether regions of a drawer that also now houses K’s extensive winter hat collection.

Equally bewildering is the fact that baby has her own pristine white crochet laundry bag that hangs three miles away from our holey synthetic laundry sack, as if co-existence would result in our sack infecting hers with chicken pox or typhus.

When laundry begins to feel like the one controllable aspect of life with a newborn, don’t even bother questioning it. If you’re lucky enough to not own a washer/dryer, use the time as an excuse to hide out for 20-30 minutes in the laundry room and catch up on your reading (remember when you read?) Also, ignore the urge to call and castigate all those women who told you newborn clothing is a waste of money. In the long run, I’m guessing they’re probably right.

Then again, you’ll just wind up spending that money on Dreft detergent, so let’s call this one a draw.

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Myth: Bottle warmers are a waste of money

Like hell they are.

Before I talk about how in love I am with my bottle warmer, let’s discuss what it’s like to pack for the first post-baby vacation. Never mind the fact that the trip doesn’t involve boarding passes, airplanes, or malaria shots – it doesn’t make it any less stressful or complicated.

This is what we packed for a simple three-day jaunt to Woodstock: five onesies, two pajamas, one Miracle Blanket swaddle, two baby towels, three washcloths, changing pads, four outfits, one baby hoodie, pack of diapers, pack of wipes, medicine bag containing newborn Tylenol, baby wash, thermometer, nasal aspirator, and hand wipes, Pack N Play, stroller, car seat, baby carrier, six Dr. Brown’s bottles, four containers of formula, and one bottle brush. What am I leaving out? Directions to the nearest hospital and my Dr. Brown’s Bottle Warmer.

Worth every penny…

Your friend who has three kids will definitely laugh at you for forking over $40 bucks for it and your breastfeeding friends will boast about how mother nature is their food warmer.

Well, screw them. You can take solace in the fact that you’ll laugh at all those moms who wind up having to dump whole bottle of prepared formula because they wrongly assumed baby was hungry when she was really just bored and/or trying to trick you. Or you can be a nice mom and suggest they get a bottle warmer of their very own.

Dr. Brown’s Bottle Warmer pros:

  • 6 oz bottle heats in about 4 mins (play with the heating times they suggest…I found their suggested times to be way too hot)
  • Simple to use
  • Can also be used to sterilize bottles and pacifiers
Cons:
  • Bottles are incredibly hot when you first remove them…be sure to use a washcloth to handle them and let them cool off for a minute or two before feeding
  • Some formula gets trapped in the warmer and will produce that nasty old-formula smell if you don’t clean it every few days
  • Not sure if the warmer will accommodate all bottle brands, as I use Dr. Brown’s bottles as well…so this one could be a pro or con
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Myth: Your patience for tomfoolery and innocent misunderstandings (which you will cause 95 percent of the time) will decrease exponentially

This myth involves a caveat and requires further explanation, lest you think I’m implying that with new motherhood + hormonal changes + work and/or 1,000 other duties, you shouldn’t be an impatient lunatic squeezing the juice out of every millisecond of your stupidly busy day.

What I mean to say is you will find yourself absolutely gaga with delight when faced with inconveniences that would have driven you nuts pre-baby – provided those inconveniences allow you two or three minutes of time to yourself (a-ha!)

Let me give you an example.

New Mom has forgotten to register for classes for the fall term (we won’t even get into why silly New Mom thought it would be a genius idea to pursue a Master’s the same year she got pregnant).

Instead of e-mailing or calling her university to find out its late registration hours, New Mom drops by the school at the start of the week, only to discover the woman in charge of registration is out sick. Four days later and you would think New Mom had learned her lesson and would call first, right?

Cut to ten subway stops later and here’s a brief outline of New Mom’s unpleasant conversation with the registration lady.

Registration Lady: Why didn’t you register online?

New Mom (feigning ignorance, or just plain ignorant?): Oh, I can do that?

Registration Lady: Yes, you should have received an e-mail about registration

New Mom (lying through her teeth): Oh, I’m not sure I received that…can I register now?

Registration Lady: I’m sorry, but it’s a holiday week and no one is here to help you..plus the system is down.

New Mom (suppressing giddiness): Ok, thank you.

Cut to New Mom practically kicking up her heels as she sashays out into the beautiful school garden to waste a little bit of time with her iPad.

As soon as you start feeling guilty about your time away from baby, remind yourself that you tried very hard to be productive.

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Myth: You are born a mommy

Best slice of wisdom a nurse at the hospital shared with me the morning after I gave birth: “You aren’t a mother when the baby is born – you become a mother.”
I had been crying for the third time that day — the shaking kind of crying that only happens when hormones are involved — because I couldn’t figure out how to replicate the “hospital blanket swaddle” — a telltale sign that I would prove a dismal failure at motherhood.

I asked her how long it takes to “become” a mother. She promised me it would happen in two weeks.

“You wake up in two weeks and, all of a sudden, you know how to be her mommy.”

Two weeks. I could handle waiting two weeks.

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Myth: Breastfeeding is a choice

Yes, at the end of the day, what you do with your breasts is up to you. But the word “choice” implies something far more casual than the “decision” to breastfeed – and then bottle feed – turned out to be.

I started off determined to breastfeed because I read it was much healthier for baby, but I’m not going to deny it: my decision was colored by the fact that it’s a very popular thing to do these days. Fact is, you won’t find much literature out there that claims BFing is not the best thing for baby – and you can’t dispute the ridiculous expense of formula.

Everyone will have an opinion on how you should feed your baby. If you’re even a tiny bit insecure in your position as a new mom, like I am, some of those flippant comments can crush you. Couple the comments with a mother who actually put her nose to my breast and provided play-by-play coverage on how my baby was eating (no kidding), and you will want to kill yourself before baby’s two month birthday.

BFing sounds like it should be intuitive. However, for me, it was insanely difficult and both a physically and emotionally painful experience.

As I explained in this post, K didn’t latch on properly at first. She was an eager eater and her intense suckling left me with one hell of a severely bruised left breast. As a result of this, I let her feed far more often on my right breast and my milk supply came in unevenly. There were times I could pump as much as three ounces from one breast and as little as a quarter of an ounce from the other breast.

After a few weeks, the pain did decrease and my breasts instead felt full, tingly, and slightly uncomfortable if K hadn’t fed in a few hours. I found the discomfort manageable.

What really troubled me was the number of times K needed to feed and the fact that she had lost a lot of weight and wasn’t gaining it back quickly enough. She wanted to nurse every 45 minutes. She’d suck hard, then whimper a bit, and then usually fall asleep on my breast after six or seven minutes. My husband and I would disrobe and tickle her, change her diaper, or drag a cold wet cloth along her face. She would wake for a little bit, suck a little more, fall back asleep, and then scream a few minutes later to eat again.

There was no point in even getting dressed. I walked around my apartment wearing tube tops or just plain naked from the waist up. My bras were permanently stained. I couldn’t leave the house for longer than half an hour because K’s feeding needs were so erratic.

I was exhausted and angry – pissed at my husband for not having to be a part of the stressful feeding experience, pissed at the lactation counselor and my own mother for not just telling me to give up if I was so upset and anxious, and beyond frustrated at the sight of poor, innocent K’s beautiful gaping bird mouth. Where others saw a gorgeous newborn, I saw a need machine. I was frightened to death by my own child’s natural needs.

This was not what I had imagined and it couldn’t possibly be healthy to continue trying to BF.

So I stopped. But, honestly, I have days when I still feel guilty about feeding her formula. After witnessing how difficult it had been, my husband helped to assure me that our daughter would grow up healthy, smart, and happy – with or without breast milk, but I’m sorry to say few people offered the same support – and that was an incredible disappointment.

Equally awful is the fact that, while breastfeeding communities and support groups are aplenty, I’ve spent hours browsing the web for formula-feeding tips and STILL don’t feel I can rely on what I’ve read.

Thanks to groups like The Mommy Playbook, women who bottle feed have a place to share knowledge and unburden themselves of their guilty feelings. But, really, why are some women so insecure in their own ability to mother that they have to make others feel bad?